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Engaging Policymakers for Sustainable Change

Key Messages
The partnership works in five distinct rural communities in North Carolina: Aberdeen, Candor, Mt. Gilead, Southern Pines and Robbins, and takes a community-specific approach to reducing the childhood obesity epidemic.
Lead agency, FirstHealth of the Carolinas, serves as a key convener of partners helping to address food insecurity and opportunities for physical activity in Moore and Montgomery Counties.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partnership in Moore and Montgomery Counties is taking a community-specific approach to reducing the childhood obesity epidemic.Candor FM sign

A common strategy throughout the Aberdeen, Candor, Mt. Gilead, Southern Pines, and Robbins communities has been engaging local officials to implement key environmental and policy changes.

The HKHC lead agency, FirstHealth of the Carolinas, is the largest employer in the region and dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents statewide. With the HKHC grant, the organization has been able to identify and assess each community’s environmental challenges that include limited access to healthy produce and poor connectivity leading to low participation in physical activity. From there, the organization conducted focus groups, physical activity assessments, and GIS mapping to evaluate useful strategies for each region. After creating task forces and increasing resident engagement, the next step was to reach out to local officials to make health a priority in policymaking throughout the two counties.

Project Director Melissa Watford says, “We want to continue community development efforts by building relationships with key leaders to get them involved and aware of potential policies. We are then able to use community partners to spread the importance of health in all decision making.”

Candor Food Solutions
An inspiring example is the development of Candor Food Solutions, Candor’s local HKHC task force. Candor Food Solutions creates opportunities for healthy eating in the Town of Candor with the support of Mayor Richard Britt. Long considered a food desert, Candor suffered from limited access to fresh options and a local supermarket. Mayor Britt helped narrate a video called Ripe for Change to document the challenges Candor residents face with access to healthy foods. The video was played at the statewide Food Day event held in Raleigh, NC. Following the state event, local policy makers, business leaders and residents met to develop a plan to address local food access issues. As a result of this plan, Mayor Britt and Tammy Kellis, the town clerk, worked to help create a healthy eating policy for all town-sponsored events. They added a 5K race to the annual Peach Festival and regularly offer water and peaches at local events, a nod to their history as a peach growing region. The town has also worked to increase awareness of the local farmers’ market through new signage and promotion.

Mayor Britt and Ms. Kellis have also supported the corner store improvement initiative in Candor. Six corner store audits were completed to assess needed changes in the area. Through this initiative, the Candor Family Dollar and Tienda La Escondita added 1% and skim milk in gallon size containers to their inventory. The initiative also provided educational materials to students at Candor Elementary School to promote the healthy options now available at the corner stores.

Project Coordinator Cindy Laton says, “We hope to continue our work by empowering community champions, identifying best practices, making connections and growing what we’ve done.”

October, 2013